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The rain is softly falling outside. I can always tell when it’s raining, not from looking out the window, but by the whoosh of tires from cars racing against the road. Right now, I can also hear the faintest sound of birds singing in the tree under my window. I’m guessing they are always there, chirping away, but I’m usually too preoccupied to hear them.

I love the peace of early mornings before the city hits full speed.

It has been almost six months since my last post. I’ve barely written anything during this time; this felt necessary.

I took some time off at the beginning of the year, and it wasn’t until I stopped that I realized how much I needed it. We don’t appreciate this in our non-stop culture, this thing of taking a breather. But I’m beginning to believe it should be required every few years, if not sooner.

Something funny happened during this time: I got to see what a normal work day looks like from an outsider’s perspective. And, it was shocking. We live like crazy people, you guys. Faces in phones, racing against time. Bodies pushing against others, needing to get where they are going—and fast. Humanity everywhere but in the moment. Is this normal?

All of my senses felt the shock of rush hour without anywhere to rush. No wonder I needed a break.

So exactly how did I recharge my psychic batteries? I started off with an overpacked schedule of cocktails and dinners, bracketed by wall-to-wall news. My advice? Don’t do this. It will not refresh you.

Sleeping in helps, though I rarely did. But the following things were my biggest helpers.

Art. It became my lifeline. I think it should be a habit to explore something artistic once a week. In museums, in the streets, in the park—wherever. Just to get out and see someone else’s perspective.

Georgia O’Keefe is my everything. I fan-girled at this exhibit—and then I went back. A few times.

Georgia O

Irving Penn blew me away with his striking images and fashionable eye.

Irving Penn

Chihuly inspired with color, curlicues and creativity.

Chihuly

Travel. My friends invited a few of us to accompany them on their family vacation to Denmark. At first I said no. I was on a break from work, and it wasn’t practical. They made me go anyway.

Everyone should have friends like this. Without them, I wouldn’t have hiked to castle ruins…

Castle

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…walked through the forest amongst Danish cows…

Cows

…seen these magical trees everywhere (and if anyone knows what they are called, please let me know!)…

Danish Tree

…eaten the best fish & chips I’ve ever had (curiously, in an aquarium!)…

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…seen all the colorful buildings…

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…or walked through the Rainbow Bridge atop the ARoS Museum in Aarhus.

Rainbow Bridge

I’m the luckiest girl.

My takeaways from the trip? The Danish are perhaps the kindest people I’ve ever met—not one rude person did I come across the week I was there. Their 7-Elevens are spotless and the food looks so fresh I bet you could have a delicious four-course meal in any location. (No, I didn’t try this.)  There is a civilized way of living in the country—no less productive, but slower paced and more deliberate—that I aspire to incorporate into my own daily life.

Wandering. Back home, I wandered around my city, now in full bloom. New York is never more beautiful than when she is coming to life in spring. She’s such a show off.

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Beauty reminds me about the simplicity of life. When I acknowledge it, and drink in its exquisite gorgeousness, it brings me back to myself. I’ve learned when I’m feeling frazzled and rundown and uninspired, it’s time to seek out beauty.

What about you—how do you recharge? I’d love to hear.

To my friends United States, however you choose to refresh on this Memorial Day holiday, please take a few moments to remember all of those souls who devoted their lives to our country. We may be one gloriously dysfunctional, divided mess of an American family, but we still live under one flag. Remember to honor those who have fought for our rights to enjoy freedoms we so often take for granted. That bravery is the epitome of beautiful.

xo, with goodness and grace.

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This is what my idea of heaven looks like these days: an hour where I have nowhere to go and nothing to do, when my the noise of my thoughts goes silent, where I can feel the sun on my face and the cool breeze tickling my skin. And I can just be. 

I got that this week. And it was good. 

  

May you find your own personal heaven this week.

xo, with goodness and grace. 

Though you needed a break from your regular routine, when your friend suggested you meet her in the heart of Tuscany, at first you hesitate.

So many reasons not to go. You have obligations, you know.

And then you say yes.

After what seems like three years of travel, you are greeted by the hotel driver who will take you on the two-hour journey to the resort. You, exhausted from being up for practically two days straight, warn him you will most likely fall asleep. You say this because car rides tend to lull you to sleep.

It’s okay, Signora, he says. I know you must be ti-red.

You love the way Italians pronounce the last syllable of past tense words.

Your warning about falling asleep comes to fruition. Something about the rhythm of the road feels like being in the water, simply comforting.

The driver wakes you up. 

Signora. Welcome home. 

Stopped at the front gate of the resort, you are greeted with this.


And all is right in the world.

xo, with goodness and grace, from Toscana.

When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.  –Rumi

it’s the simple things.

I do my best to go for a walk at lunch time during the week. I think it’s important to have moments in the day that give you a break. All that thinking and doing can be exhausting. I treasure moments when I can just be.

As I meandered down a new street, I came upon a park. Children played with their friends, carefree but carefully watched by their nannies. There was the giddiness of the beginning of summer in the air.

Joy. It was everywhere.

I noticed a sign. Dog-free park, it said. For some reason, I saw the sign and felt the urge to walk across the grass, barefoot.  It sounds like such a simple thing, to take your shoes off and walk across the grass. But life in New York can be complicated.  People walk their dogs and sometimes don’t clean up after them, so you never know what surprises will find you. (Or your feet.) It doesn’t always make sense to be carefree.

But the urge became so great, I knelt down, and one by one took off my shoes. I stepped on the grass. It felt cool. It felt good. Soft, damp with dew, earthy. I walked across the lawn and felt grounded. In the middle of my city, on a warm June day, it felt right.

I loved it so much I did it again the day.

It’s the simple things.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I’m so humbled and grateful to have this very personal piece up on Jennifer Pastiloff’s website, The Manifest-Station, which not only features Jen’s incredible work (if she comes to your town with one of her workshops or retreats, I urge you to sign up – they are life-changing!), but also guest posts from an array of phenomenal writers. Be sure to check out the site if you haven’t already… xo

The Manifest-Station

Longing. By Dena Young.

I can remember just a few months back, sitting under a tree, lamenting the change of season.  Spring was shifting into summer and, though I love summer, I could already feel a longing for the early bloom of springtime.

This was the first year, maybe ever, I felt present every day, open to the new life unfolding.  I allowed myself to have my breath taken away at each turned corner, open to the surprise of a burst of yellow from the forsythia that always seem to appear first, then to the patches of pink tulips, drooping from the weight of their too-heavy heads.  I loved crossing the street and being charmed by the powerful scent of hyacinths and the voluptuous lushness of cherry blossoms. I let it amaze and astonish me.

And then I began to mourn it, even before it was over.

This is a pattern of mine, missing things…

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And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

May 2014 be full of everything you long for in your life, as well as the belief that anything is possible.

May love hold you tight and embrace you daily.

May this be the year that you dare to dream big!

xo, in goodness and grace

I woke up this morning thinking how lucky I am.

This is strange because I’m in the middle of quite possibly the most challenging work season of my career, at least in terms of the volume I need to get done. I’ve been starting my days early and ending them late, never quite sure if anything I did get done was good enough. The pact I made with myself earlier in the year, the one where I am to put my self care first above work and the needs of everyone else, is being challenged in a big way. The promises we make to ourselves get tested, I think, to see just how serious we are about our intentions.

But in the middle of all the stress and in the center of the anxiety and at the heart of these life school tests, I have discovered a new lens to look at life. My worldview has shifted. As I look out the window on this early morning, the sun hours away from presenting itself, I know that our days are made up of small beautiful moments that string together to create a life. I know that there is grace in the challenging and the confusing, just as much as in the blatently beautiful.

And that’s all because of this blog. Writing this chronicle, particularly this year, has changed me more than words can say. My intention was to celebrate the good things in life, which I admit sounds a bit like a bumper sticker slogan. That thought has deepened as I’ve awakened to the fact that it’s much bigger – and simpler – than that, that goodness really is everywhere and in everything.

It’s in the sunsets and the moonrises, mystical wonders of beauty that reliably show up, day after day.

It’s on the plate filled with food prepared by my mom, meant to nourish my body, but more often than not filling my soul. It’s in the wine glass filled with drink in the restaurant, carefully selected not only to pair perfectly with my meal, but also because the pourer knew I would like it.

It’s in the hearts and love phrases that I’m finding everywhere, offerings from a world full of joy just waiting to be experienced.

Goodness is everywhere. Grace shows up in the most perfect moments, always exactly when you need to look at something from a different perspective.

That you have chosen to witness all of this by showing up and reading these words, touches me. As Goodness, Grace and Grub celebrates year 4 of life, I celebrate all of you for taking this journey with me.

Here’s to the next year of celebration!

xo, with goodness and grace

What a beautiful way to start my morning, reading these incredible words posted by Christa in New York from one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott. How could you not love a writer who uses a phrase like, “the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?” Touching, poignant, true. I hope you find this as inspiring as I do.

Christa Avampato

I love Anne Lamott. She is among my favorite writers because of her raw, honest turn of phrase and her fearlessness that allows her to cut right to the chase. In her efforts to thoroughly understand herself, she is a mirror for her readers.

In 2009, she wrote this gorgeous article in O, The Oprah Magazine, about how to be who you are meant to be. Her advice is this: stop. Figure out what to stop doing, who to stop pleasing, and where you don’t need to be. It’s akin to the advice that learning what not to do gets us closer to figuring out what to do. And then I would also add that you meditate because while you may be able to stop physically, you need to also give your brain a break from its tireless whirr of thoughts.

Enjoy this article and then tuck it away…

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A Perfect Holiday

Here’s hoping that your holiday embodied the magic and joy of this time of year.

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To goodness and grace – may they be incorporated into everyday.

Hot Showers

After a long day at work, I love nothing more than coming home, getting out of my “school” clothes (a holdover from my childhood), and taking a long, hot shower.

Standing under the rain shower head, the water warming my skin and the steam all around me, I can feel the challenging parts of the day washing away.  I emerge feeling brand new.

It’s a perfect way to leave the day behind and recharge for the one just ahead.

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